Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sterke Smaker på en Kjølig Høst Kveld

["bold flavors on a chilly autumn evening"]

After a week off, courtesy of my wife (remember?), I was back in the kjøkken ["kitchen"] tonight preparing another Scandinavian Saturday supper.

Norwegian: stekt reinkjøtt med gjetost saus ["roasted venison with goat cheese sauce"]

I rubbed down a venison rump roast with butter and seared it in the oven before turning down the heat and covering the meat in salt and pepper. Then I roasted it on a rack over a pan filled with wine, chicken stock, and crushed juniper berries (with which I basted it every 15 minutes). The sauce for the roast started as a roux (flour and butter) to which I added the pan juices and then whisked in red raspberry jelly and gjetost ["goat cheese"], letting those dissolve before pulling it off the heat and stirring in sour cream. The venison roast was as tender as a beef roast, and the sauce was thick, smooth, and salty.

Swedish: raggmunk ["potato pancake"]

While I was frying some pepper-bacon, I grated several potatoes, rinsed and drained them, and added flour, chives, milk, an egg, salt, and pepper. Then I used the bacon drippings in place of oil, frying dollops of the potato mixture in it to form large flat pancakes, which I served with the bacon strips on top. Raggmunk is like a cross between a breakfast pancake and a hashbrown. It was good--and, really, how could it not be with bacon on top?!

Swedish: limpa [a rye bread flavored with molasses, anise, and orange zest]

We bought a round loaf of limpa at the Northern Plains Ethnic Festival in August (remember?), and it has been waiting patiently in our deep freeze ever since. So I sliced it and served it tonight, and it was a nice accompaniment to the meal. The anise flavor was noticeable but certainly not overpowering. I'd bet this bread would be good in the morning, too, smeared with marmalade.

Danish: Dansk blåskimmelost salat ["Danish bleu cheese salad"]

I bought some organic butter lettuce--a head of lettuce so fancy that half its plastic container held its root system (so fresh, said the label, that it's actually "still alive" . . . which is a little creepy, but it was genuinely delicious). I tossed the butter lettuce with thinly sliced radishes, sweet onion, and cucumbers and crumbled Danish bleu cheese. I whisked together white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, mustard, and sugar to make a dressing with which I tossed the salad just before serving. It was fantastic. The roots-still-attached lettuce made all the difference (because it actually tasted like lettuce, in contrast to the prewashed, prechopped lettuce that comes in hermetically sealed bags nowadays).

Finnish: rummipuuro ["rum pudding"]

I started this bad boy early in the afternoon so that I could complete all the steps and get it into the fridge far enough in advance to be ready by the time we finished the meal--and, I'm happy to say, it was worth all the work it took to create. I emptied unflavored gelatin into water to soften and then set about separating several eggs. I beat the yolks with sugar, cream, and milk and then cooked the mixture in a glass bowl over a pan of boiling water to form a double boiler, whisking nonstop until it started to thicken. Then I transferred the bowl to an ice bath, whisked in the gelatin, added some rum, and stirred occasionally while waiting for the gelatin to cause it to set.

Meanwhile I whipped some heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla extract and set that aside. Then I beat the egg whites until stiff and set them aside. By then, the mixture in the ice bath had started to firm up, so I folded in the whipped cream and the whipped egg whites, transferred the rum pudding to a serving dish, and popped it into the fridge to chill and finish setting. After the meal, we dug in and enjoyed it very much. The egg whites in particular gave it a light and fluffy texture so that the pudding seemed to melt in our mouths. I could taste both the vanilla and the rum quite clearly, but the alcohol was pretty mild. It actually reminded me of drinking hot Tom & Jerrys during the holidays. It's a good thing that the pudding is so good because we have an awful lot of it left over.

Whaddya think, Faithful Reader? Is this a menu that appeals to you?